The Gadget Hall of Fame – Legos

Some posts back I vaguely mentioned the idea of a gadget hall of fame. Now, I’m thinking it’s about time certain gadgets got the recognition they deserve.

Because it’s not often a gadget comes around that truly changes the world, and when they do, it’s not always the case that everyone is necessarily fully aware of their influence, or have properly paid them the attention required, which are hopefully problems that can be remedied in some way here.

With that in mind, there is only one gadget I can think of that could possibly start this idea off and set the standard for what is to follow. That gadget is…

Legos

Lego_at_MoA

What is a gadget?

Well if we go off of the strict definition, we’re looking for “a small mechanical device or tool, esp. an ingenious or novel one.”

Considering only that definition, Lego’s aren’t technically a gadget. Well, at least not if you exclude the more technologically advanced newer models, and just talk about the classic, standard, multi-colored building blocks we all know.

However to me a great gadget is more than that definition. A great gadget is really an item that inspires as well as entertains. It’s an item that not only makes an impact on the user’s life, but can change the entire game. A great gadget is an item that you can use as a landmark in your life, and note the time before you had it, and the time afterwards as two completely separate entities.

But most of all, a great gadget is one that makes it’s greatness evident based on its function alone. From the time you begin using it, it leaves no doubt that you have something special.

Now, going off of that definition, Lego’s were one of the first gadgets any of us owned.

Lego_Chicago_City_View_2001

The word Lego stems from a Danish phrase meaning “play well,” and have always existed under a company motto that the “best is never too good” as laid down by Lego’s founder Ole Kirk Christiansen since he started making them back in 1947. While always interconnecting blocks, Legos used to be made of wood before moving on to the modern (but, back then, controversial) plastic design. It was in 1958 though when the traditional design we know now was patented. In fact, Lego bricks from that year are still compatible with modern bricks today.

From there Lego’s creativity knew no bounds. Building sets were released encompassing every theme from pirates to space, and by the 70’s, little Lego characters named minifigures were included so that Lego worlds could be created in full. Lego didn’t just rely on generic themes though for their sets, and soon took to creating bundles based on licenses like “Star Wars,” “Indiana Jones,” “Toy Story,” and too many to list here.  Shortly before the millennium, they unveiled their Mindstorm series that allowed for essentially the creation of mechanical robots based on the same basic building block design they’ve always employed.

But this isn’t about the abundant creativity exhibited by Lego as a company, but rather the even greater creativity shown by the users of Legos. Uses of Legos range all the way from the loose representations of a design idea we all created when playing with our first set, to an over 5,000,000 brick recreation of an X-Wing made by professionals, to absolutely amazing modern mechanisms created entirely out of, or largely around, standard Lego blocks, all the way to a modern art exhibit featuring a variety of works built entirely from Legos.

425px-LEGO_Building_At_KSC

Legos have not only inspired the creativity out of every child that played with them regardless of ability, but were also likely the first tool that many modern inventors and artists had available to them to help expand their blossoming talents. For proof, look no further than the modern game “Minecraft” which made millions off a similar, but virtual, idea of providing building blocks and letting users do the rest.

Again though it doesn’t matter if you ever went on to create the next big thing just because you started with Legos, as their true value was the ability to not only draw the full creative potential out of any person, but to allow them to have fun doing it as well. It’s not often that anything comes along that is educational, entertaining, revolutionary, timeless, inspires decades of creativity, and provides a shared experience for all of its users the world over across generations, but that is exactly what Legos did, and continue to do today.

It is in that spirit that Legos may not only be defined as a gadget, but allows me to name a random assortment of colored building blocks as the first entrant into the Gadget Teaser gadget hall of fame.

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